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Healthy Corn Chowder

For the best flavor, make this soup at the height of summer, using just-picked local corn: yellow, white or a combination. The cobs are simmered to make a broth, which is then pureed with silken tofu, resulting in a rich-tasting soup without the cream or milk typically added to corn chowders. Another change from the classic version: a garnish of crumbled crisp bacon replaces the salt pork or fatback usually cooked with the corn. If you make the soup in advance and refrigerate it, it will take on a grainy look. When it is reheated, the graininess will disappear. 

Ingredients:

  • 4 ears of corn, husks and silk removed 
  • 6 cups water  
  • 1 cup silken tofu 
  • 1 yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch cubes  
  • 1 boiling potato, about 6 oz., peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes 
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces 
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper 
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions, white and light green portions
  • 1 to 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice 
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt, or more, to taste 
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste 
  • 3 preservative-free bacon slices 

Directions:

Hold 1 ear of corn upright, stem end down, in the center of a wide, shallow bowl. Using a sharp knife, slice straight down between the kernels and the cob, rotating the ear a quarter turn after each cut. Then, using the dull side of the knife blade, run the blade down the length of the ear to extract the “milk” and bits of corn remaining on the ear, again rotating the ear a quarter turn after each stroke. Repeat with the remaining 3 ears. Put all of the corn and the corncobs in a Dutch oven or large saucepan.

Add the water to the pan and place over high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently, uncovered, until the corn is tender, 10 to 20 minutes; the timing depends on the tenderness of the corn. Remove and discard the cobs. Pour the contents of the pan through a sieve set over a bowl; reserve both the corn and the corn broth. Return half of the broth to the pan. Set half of the cooked corn aside.

In a blender, carefully combine the remaining broth, the remaining cooked corn and the tofu, and puree until a creamy mixture forms, about 2 minutes. Set aside.

Add the yellow onion, potato, bell pepper and cayenne to the pan holding the broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the potato is tender, about 10 minutes. Pour in the corn-tofu mixture, stir in the reserved corn and the green onions, and heat through. Add 1 Tbs. lemon juice (the lemon juice eliminates any tofu “bean flavor”), then season with the salt and black pepper and with more lemon juice, if needed.

While the soup is cooking, in a fry pan over medium heat, fry the bacon, turning the slices as needed, until crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Ladle the chowder into warmed soup bowls. Cut the bacon slices in half, then crumble 1/2 slice over the center of each bowl. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Healthful Cooking, by Mary Abbott Hess, Dana Jacobi & Marie Simmons (Oxmoor House, 2003).